During a recent visit to Whole Foods, I spotted a large sign in the bakery stating, “We use whole grains & unbleached & unbromated flours in all our baked goods.” Let’s review the benefits of using whole-grain, unbleached, and unbromated flour vs the alternatives commonly found in mass produced baked goods.
Why Put Bleach In Flour
The reason we began bleaching flour is a simple one. It is the same reason why we use bleach for our clothes: to get the product whiter. Don’t worry – the bleach used for laundry is not the same as the bleach used for white flour although it is still a chemical. White flour came into being due to its advantages over whole-grain flour: it lasted longer on the shelf and produced a lighter texture loaf.
What is the Purpose of Bromate
Potassium bromate is added to flour to improve the rise and elasticity of bread dough. Bromate is allowed as a food additive in the United States, but in many countries it is banned. The FDA encourages bakers not to use bromate, but has had limited success. In animal studies, bromate has been linked to some cancers.
Whole vs Refined Grains
Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel ― the bran, germ, and endosperm. White flour or refined grains have been milled, a process that removes the bran and germ. This is done to give grains a finer texture and improve shelf life, but it also removes dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins. Products made from whole grains provide richer sources of nutrients and fiber.
Where We Are Today
With modern technology, it is possible to produce a very white flour with no chemical bleaching. However, bleaching flour is still a common practice. Bromating is less common, but it is still being used in industrial food applications. There are companies that offer unbleached and unbromated flour such as Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur. The author, Susan Kapatoes MHA, is the founder of Inspire Your Journey, a health and wellness company offering a BEMER Rental Program, Wearable Health Technology, and a full line of nutrition products from Amare Global, the Mental Wellness Company. She lives in Massachusetts.